I love getting to visit the places where I set my stories. The Right Kind of Fool–releasing in November–is set in Beverly, WV, just down the road from my mom’s house. Last fall we went over and poked around town making it possible for me to add some nice details.
The old Odd Fellows Hall crops up several times. Today, it’s a cute shop filled with country knick knacks and collectibles–in my 1932 story it was a place for some tense conversations! Here’s a peek at the beginning of one of those . . .
Creed followed Virgil not much more than a block to the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street. Although membership in the organization had dwindled, the building with its stamped metal sheathing and false front remained a point of pride for many in the town. Apparently, Hadden was a member, and from the way Virgil walked in like he owned the place, Creed guessed the sheriff must be a member, as well.
Hadden sat at a table to the side of the long, narrow room. A cup of coffee sat in front of him, and he was reading a copy of the Randolph Enterprise. He lowered the paper, folded it, and set it on the table. He crossed his arms.
“Appreciate you sticking around,” Virgil said.
“I’m saving you a trip to my home. I hope you appreciate that.”
Virgil grunted and pulled a chair over near Hadden. “Could have gone ahead and locked you up. Then I wouldn’t have needed to cross the street.”
Hadden turned his attention to Creed. “We could use some new members here. Have you ever thought of becoming an Odd Fellow?”
Creed laughed. “Guess I’m odd enough without joining a group to prove it.”
I love it when I discover something wonderfully Appalachian that I didn’t know about!
I was researching Appalachian funeral traditions for my 2021 story (oops, I think I just gave away that someone dies–well, several someone’s actually!). I knew about cooling boards, sitting up with the dead, hand-digging graves, silver dollars on the eyes (pennies turn the skin green), and draping a cloth soaked in soda water over the face to keep the skin from darkening. But coffin quilts–this was new!
Called coffin or graveyard quilts they would be stitched by a family to be revisited each time someone died. They were typically somber colors–grays, blacks, or browns. Patterns varied, but often included a large square in the center that was the “graveyard.” Pieces of fabric shaped like coffins would be embroidered with each family member’s names and basted to the outside edge. When that person died, their coffin would be moved to the center graveyard and sewn into place.
The quilt might be used to drape the actual coffin at the funeral or used to cover the deceased at the viewing. While it might seem morbid, I tend to think it strikes the right balance between acknowledging that we’re all going to die one day and honoring those who already have.
Because in the end, we’ll all find our spot in the graveyard!
Follow this link to see a beautiful example from the Kentucky Historical Society. Don’t miss the link at the bottom of the page giving the quilt’s history. Priceless!
When my husband and I took on the family farm in West Virginia, a big part of the reason was to preserve family history. Turns out I’m pretty sentimental and I’m fascinated with history–especially my own.
I’ve known for years that my brothers and I are the seventh generation to live on that particular parcel of land. But I’d long wondered, just how much of it actually goes back seven generations?
In going through Dad’s papers my brother pulled out a legal-size folder full of papers “about the farm.” There are old deeds, maps, and handwritten notes. Among them is a page in my father’s hand that traces the property’s history back to 1833 (with county deed book citations in case I want to look it up as well). That means the land has been in our family for 187 years!
Turns out there are only eight acres that have passed through all seven generations, but I think it’s fair to assume the other 50+ we now own were part of the original tract since it was originally 1,460 acres!!
Here’s the rundown:
David Phillips acquired a 1,460-acre tract from David Stringer on February 4, 1833.
Horace Phillips received a portion of the original tract upon his father, David’s, death in 1849.
Horace willed 8 acres to his son David Phillips and his wife Serena on August 22, 1870.
David and Serena conveyed those 8 acres to Perry S. Loudin (son-in-law) and Jane Phillips Loudin (daughter) on December 4, 1909.
Jane Phillips Loudin Howes conveyed the 8 acres to her son, Rex Phillip Loudin, on May 3, 1943. The house my dad grew up in was on that parcel.
Rex conveyed the land to his son, Larry Phillip Loudin (my dad), on March 19, 1971, along with several additional tracts of the original 1,460 acres that had been purchased over the years, totaling 98.5 acres.
And then my husband and I purchased 58.5 acres including the 8 consistently in the family in February 2018.
I have freckles. More than an adorable smattering across my nose. More than a dusting across my cheeks. I have a freckle on my lip, on my eyelids, my ears. And when I was a kid I wanted them GONE. Luckily (or not) there are quite a few folklore remedies for freckles including washing your face in stump water–which is readily available in the mountains of Appalachia.
You can also wash freckles in dew before sunrise on the first day of May. Or, you can use the water from an urn in a graveyard to rinse them away. (Hint: None of these work.)
As an adult I’m delighted with my freckles. I credit them with tricking people into thinking I’m younger than I am. And more innocent. When you still look a bit like Laura Ingalls, people tend to think you’re sweet ; )
Of course, stump water is good for other things as well–curing warts for example. The way I heard it, you were to soak a dishcloth in stump water and then apply it to the wart. But Mark Twain had a different take on things.
In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom and Huck have the following exchange about curing warts:
“Why, spunk-water. . . You got to go all by yourself, to the middle of the woods, where you know there’s a spunk-water stump, and just as it’s midnight you back up against the stump and jam your hand in and say:
‘Barley-corn, barley-corn, injun-meal shorts, Spunk-water, spunk-water, swaller these warts,’
and then walk away quick, eleven steps, with your eyes shut, and then turn around three times and walk home without speaking to anybody. Because if you speak the charm’s busted. . .”
It probably doesn’t work, but if you want to get rid of something badly enough, might be worth a shot. Right?
Dad’s been gone for almost two months now. And I’m well into the year that will be marked by firsts. The first Father’s Day, the first birthday, the first Christmas, the first . . . well there will be all sorts of firsts without him. And apparently plenty of seconds and thirds as well since I keep thinking of things I want to ask him or tell him.
But it’s okay. Because I have this confidence that soon enough we’ll be together in a place where there are no firsts or lasts . . . only love. And that’s something he gave me that goes on forever.
I love digging into random bits of history about my home state. Sometimes, when I’m traveling through on my way to or from the farm, I take side roads and just see what turns up.
Like the Tyree Tavern aka Halfway House in Ansted, WV. It’s an old stagecoach inn that was built around 1810. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster allegedly lodged here.
Well, that’s worth getting out of the car! The property is currently for sale for $200,000. Hmmmm. Tempting! I climbed the odd porch stairs to the second story, peered in the windows, and stood on the original coaching stand. Oh, the feet that stood there before mine!
The tavern was called Halfway House because it was halfway between Charleston and Lewisburg on the James River and Kanawha Turnpike. Which, by the way, is now a very curvy paved road that you can still travel.
Everything about this place intrigues me and it absolutely REEKS of stories. But perhaps the most intriguing thing about it are the words carved over the right front door (there are two front doors).
1862 Headquarters of the Chicago Gray Dragoons
Just a little research turned up that this company was part of the Civil War battle of Rich Mountain just north in Randolph County. It so happens that in my upcoming novel, The Right Kind of Fool, there’s a scene where kids in 1932 reenact that battle for a town pageant. And there I stood, in the same spot as those soldiers I’d so recently read about from more than 150 years ago.
I can’t tell you how much of a kick I get out of tripping over history. So many connections–connecting us all!
I’m currently researching a story due to release in 2021 that’s set in and around Hawk’s Nest, WV. I found a newspaper account of a 1931 celebratory dinner held at the Lover’s Leap club house at what is now Hawk’s Nest State Park.
And like any good author, I bounded off on the rabbit trail of WHY it’s called Lover’s Leap. It seems most states with anything like a mountain have one or two such spots and I wondered what the story would be for this one.
Turns out there are TWO stories with passionate supporters for each. I’d summarize them for you except that George W. Atkinson wrote them out in 1876 in such a way that I’ve simply got to quote him. Let me know which version YOU prefer!
VERSION 1 – Soon after the first settlement of Greenbrier county, a young couple, whose names have been lost in the lapse of time, fled from Fort Union to find a home where they might consummate the height of their earthly hopes-a marital union-which had been denied them by the young girl’s parents, who resided at the fort.
Their steps were directed west ward, with the hope of finding another settlement, there to be duly united in wedlock according to the style and customs of frontier life. On arriving at this romantic spot, beholding the lofty precipice, and being deeply impressed with the scenery sublime, they stood entranced upon its summit.
Whilst drinking in the grandeur of nature, standing upon the brink of the cliff, an overpowering dizziness seized upon the lady; she staggered forward, and before she could be rescued by the strong arm of her lover, fell over the cliff to the rocks beneath. The young hunter, driven to temporary insanity by the loss of her whom he loved dearer than his own life, leaped over the precipice, and like her was dashed to pieces upon the rocks below.
The parents of this couple, knowing their attachment for each other, on learning that they had left the fort, organized a party to pursue them. They started upon their trail, which they managed to keep without difficulty until they arrived at the point from which the fatal leap was taken, and being like-wise infatuated with the grandeur of the scene, halted upon its top crag and surveyed the valley beneath them.
While thus engaged, the limb of a small cedar, which stood upon the margin of the cliff, was noticed to have been split off, and there came upon the party a misgiving that the objects of their search had fallen over the precipice. Search was at once made, and their forebodings proved to be real-there lay, side by side, in the embrace of death, the bruised and mangled forms of the young hunter and his betrothed.
VERSION 2 – An Indian maiden had been commanded by her father-a chief-to marry a young chief belonging to a neighboring tribe. The wishes of the maiden, according to the Indian custom, had not been consulted, and she was frank in confessing to her father that she did not love the person whom he had chosen for her husband; that she loved a young warrior, who was handsome, fearless, brave that she could never marry the chief, because her affection and her life were pledged to the youthful warrior. This confession, of course, only made the father the more determined in carrying out his desires; so he sternly ordered the girl to obey him. She shrank from the impending calamity, and after a consultation with her betrothed, they decided upon flight from the wigwams of their kindred to find another home, where they could live as their hearts directed that they should live-for and with each other.
On arriving at this picturesque spot, and finding that they were pursued, rather than be separated in life, they resolved to die together, and embracing each other they plunged over this precipice, and were dashed to pieces upon the rocks at its base.